Cues for Integration

Foreign Policy Beliefs and German Parliamentarians’ Support for European Integration

in German Politics and Society


How do foreign policy beliefs affect German parliamentarians’ (mps) support for European integration? Despite important advances, the literature has overlooked the effect of foreign policy beliefs on national representatives’ attitudes toward integration. This study provides a systematic investigation of the role foreign policy beliefs play in shaping German mps’ support for European integration. I argue that given the complex and contentious character of European integration politics mps derive heuristic cues from their foreign policy beliefs to form opinions on the desirability of integration. Using data from an original survey conducted with members of the seventeenth German Bundestag, I show that a belief in multilateralism increases support for European integration while isolationist and hawkish foreign policy orientations decrease support. These results indicate that support for European integration is not merely determined by party ideology, electoral pressure or economic considerations, but also has a psychological foundation shaped by politicians’ core beliefs about how the world of international politics operates.

How do foreign policy beliefs affect German parliamentarians’ (mps) support for European integration? Are multilateralist mps who believe in a cooperative foreign policy more supportive of European integration than those who favor a hawkish foreign policy or isolationism? This study provides a systematic investigation of the effect of foreign policy beliefs on German mps’ support for European integration.

A sizable body of research has examined the determinants of politicians’ attitudes toward European integration. Important works have explored the orientations of party and national officials,1 members of the European Parliament,2 European Commission officials,3 and political and economic societal elites4 toward European integration and European Union (eu) politics more broadly. Scholars have also devoted a great deal of attention to mass attitudes toward integration and have examined in particular the electoral connection between European and domestic politics.5

Despite the critical role it has traditionally played in European politics, studies centered specifically on Germany have been relatively scarce not- withstanding a handful of exceptions.6 Some studies have examined the effect of European integration on the German Bundestag and on parliamentary politics.7 Others have focused on Germany’s eu policy in general.8 A few works have analyzed the German public’s support for European integration.9 Yet there has been very limited research on the sources of German politicians’ support for the eu.10

The existing literature has traditionally focused on electoral pressure, left/right political party ideology, and the economic benefits of integration to explain the preferences of politicians and governments regarding European integration. These factors are certainly important. Focusing on these influences alone, however, overlooks the psychological factors, such as foreign policy beliefs that might lead to support for integration. Foreign policy beliefs represent individuals’ general worldview on international political life.11 They provide a set of lenses through which people understand, interpret, and respond to international politics. Also called predispositions, foreign policy beliefs are psychological in nature, reflecting individuals’ overarching assumptions about how the world of international politics operates and what policy objectives their country should pursue in world affairs.12 In particular, foreign policy beliefs represent actors’ basic orientations toward international cooperation and conflict. As Brian Rathbun has put it, foreign policy beliefs describe the psychological “international relations paradigm” individuals carry in their minds.13

A vast body of scholarship has shown that foreign policy beliefs of multilateralism, militant internationalism or hawkishness, and isolationism are crucial determinants of politicians’ and public attitudes toward a wide range of international issues.14 Since they embody an individual’s general perspective on international cooperation and conflict, there is every reason to think that foreign policy beliefs will influence support toward European integration. Nevertheless, very little research to date has investigated the relationship between politicians’ foreign policy beliefs and their attitudes toward European integration.

This paper systematically examines the effect of foreign policy beliefs on German mps’ support for European integration. As I define it here, European integration consists of two main pillars—deepening of policy coordination among member states and transfer of authority to supranational eu institutions. This definition is consistent with the conventional conceptualizations of European integration.15

I argue that mps derive heuristic cues from their foreign policy beliefs to form opinions on European integration. mps are confronted with a number of political and normative questions and contentious issues when judging the desirability of integration. They face a complex decision-making environment and have incomplete information. To cope with this complexity, I argue that they rely on their overarching foreign policy beliefs to form judgments about the pros and cons of an ever-closer Union. Using data from an original survey conducted with members of the seventeenth German Bundestag (2009–2013), I show that a multilateralist foreign policy orientation increases support for European integration, while isolationism and hawkishness decrease support. This result indicates that support for European integration is not merely determined by party ideology, electoral cueing, or by the economic benefits of integration. It is also shaped by the psychological international relations paradigm in mps’ minds captured by their foreign policy beliefs. Harald Schoen has advanced the research on the foreign policy beliefs of the German public and politicians,16 and an impressive data collection process is underway.17 This study parallels these efforts and offers a new psychologically informed explanation for why parliamentarians subject to similar domestic pressures might exhibit different preferences over European integration. It offers a complementary account to studies emphasizing party politics, electoral cueing, and the economic benefits of integration.

This paper unfolds as follows. I begin by discussing the existing explanations for elite attitudes toward European integration and explain the importance of taking politicians’ foreign policy belief systems seriously. Next, I develop my theoretical argument and derive testable hypotheses. Section three describes the research design, introducing the German parliamentarian survey and the variables. Section four tests my hypotheses using statistical analyses. I conclude by summarizing the results and making suggestions for future research.

Elite Support Toward European Integration

Even though scholars have paid a lot of heed to public attitudes toward European integration, only a limited number of studies have focused on elite attitudes and on the relationship between elite and mass orientations. While the definition of elite varies in the literature, a number of works have focused on party elites or national representatives more broadly. On balance, scholars have identified left/right party ideology, electoral politics, and the economic benefits of integration as the main drivers of elite support for integration.

A frequently evoked claim in discussions of party elites’ positions on integration is the left-right party ideology continuum. Scholars have shown that the ideological positions of political parties are important predictors of support for European integration because they constrain the policy positions party officials feel are appropriate.18 Even though the relationship between left-right party orientations and European integration is complex, two main findings are widely accepted in the literature. First, right parties are generally more supportive of European integration than left parties. Their support for integration declines, however, as eu policy making becomes more focused on redistribution, environmental protection, and market regulation. Second, as parties move away from the center, they become less supportive of European integration, with far-right and far-left parties taking more Euroskeptical positions.19

In the political representation literature, scholars have given considerable attention to cueing effects. Some studies have found that when publics are in favor of integration, their representatives more strongly favor integration, indicating a close electoral connection.20 Other works have shown that parties only partially represent the preferences of publics, and elite and public mass preferences over eu policy can vary across issue areas.21 A third group of studies have shown that there is a “dual process” in that elites both respond to public preferences and strategically shape them to further their own agenda,22 indicating the “conditional” nature of elite-cueing23.

The third explanation for integration support focuses on national interest. In the broader scholarship on European integration, many studies have argued that government preferences are shaped by the economic benefits of integration.24 The most prominent conceptualization of national interest in the literature on elite attitudes focuses on the benefits acquired by free trade and on net financial transfers.25 The more member states gain from trade and financial transfers from the eu, the higher their support for European integration.

Research specifically focused on German political elites has largely reinforced the findings of the larger literature on support for European integration. For example, Angelika Scheuer and Hermann Schmitt demonstrated that the economic factors, domestic politics, and the scope of eu policies all are associated with Germany’s support for European integration.26 Arndt Wonka and Berthold Rittberger observed the importance of party politics and intraparty information exchanges in Germany’s eu policy.27 Steven Weldon and Hermann Schmitt showed the impact of European politics on mps’ votes and on party competition in German federal elections.28 Scholars have also pointed to the importance of ideological party positions in shaping elite attitudes toward integration.29

Party ideology, electoral politics, and the economic benefits of integration are certainly important sources of attitudes toward European integration. Nevertheless, a focus on these alone misses a critical factor: the foreign policy beliefs that represent the international relations theory paradigm in politicians’ minds.30 Because foreign policy beliefs capture the “general theory” of international relations politicians’ endorse,31 they are very likely to influence support for European integration. Foreign policy beliefs embody individuals’ core assumptions about international conflict and cooperation and how their country should act in world affairs. They reflect actors’ beliefs about how the world of international relations works.32 There is every reason to think that they will influence attitudes toward European integration.

Drawing insights from research on foreign policy beliefs and cognitive psychology, I argue that politicians’ attitudes toward European integration have a psychological foundation affected by their foreign policy beliefs. Foreign policy beliefs serve as heuristic tools by which actors evaluate the desirability of integration.

Foreign Policy Beliefs and European Integration

Foreign policy beliefs represent the broad worldviews of individuals on international political life. They embody peoples’ general beliefs about how the world of international politics works and how states should act in world affairs.33 Foreign policy beliefs provide a prism through which individuals interpret international politics and identify the general policy objectives and priorities they prefer.

A substantial body of research has established that foreign policy beliefs are stable, systematically organized, and predict attitudes toward specific issues in international politics both at elite and mass levels. Scholars largely agree that foreign policy beliefs consist of three main dimensions: multilateralism, militant internationalism, and isolationism.34 There are two main reasons for the prominence of this three-dimensional model of foreign policy beliefs. First, its validity has been tested in several independently conducted studies in the u.s. and in Europe, not only in the Cold War period but also in the post Cold War era. Second, scholars have demonstrated that multilateralism, militant internationalism, and isolationism are the three related but distinct dimensions along which the foreign policy beliefs of both publics and policy elites are structured.

While this three-dimensional model continues to dominate the literature, it is important to note that there is a theoretical debate about the dimensions of foreign policy beliefs. For example, in a recent study, Timothy Gravelle, Jason Reifler, and Thomas J. Scotto, advocate a more nuanced and multidimensional framework of how mass publics structure their foreign policy beliefs while acknowledging that multilateralism, militant internationalism, and isolationism remain important and distinct facets of foreign policy beliefs not only in the u.s. but also in Germany.35

The current debate about the structure of foreign policy beliefs is valuable and is likely to result in a more nuanced understanding of how publics and elites cognitively represent international politics. Nonetheless, because the three-dimensional framework is still viewed as the canonical model in the literature36 and alternative models are still in the development stage, I focus on multilateralism, militant internationalism, and isolationism in this study.

Multilateralism is marked by an interest in the welfare of the wider community of states and in international cooperation.37 It reflects “a sense of obligation to the broader international community”38 and a willingness to cooperate with other countries to realize shared objectives.39 Cooperative internationalists believe that international cooperation is not only possible, but also desirable and necessary. In contrast, militant internationalism is characterized by hawkishness and a focus on self-interest. It reflects a concern for the interest of one’s own country and a preparedness to use force to protect national interests. Hawks generally see the world of international politics as a dangerous environment and therefore prefer an aggressive foreign policy over multilateral cooperation and diplomacy.40 Isolationism, the third dimension of foreign policy beliefs, is marked by the belief that national interests are best served by having a home focus. Isolationism is defined by a desire to avoid involvement in other countries’ affairs and in supranational institutions that limit sovereign autonomy.41

I argue that foreign policy beliefs serve as cognitive shortcuts by which German mps assess the desirability of European integration. Since they represent the international relations paradigm in individuals’ minds, foreign policy beliefs provide evaluative criteria for mps to assess the pros and cons of furthering integration.42

European integration is a complex and contentious process. It has multiple facets, and its scope and depth are continuously changing. To assess the desirability of integration and form an opinion on whether to support integration, mps need to process a vast amount of information and consider numerous issues. How will deepening integration benefit Germany? Is being the leader of integration still in the interest of Germany? What costs might Germany incur from deepening? Is the current depth and scope of integration consistent with the original values of the European project? What is the future of integration and what is Germany’s role in alternative future scenarios? What does the German electorate want and how will deepening integration affect different economic and social constituencies? How will the eu influence the next federal elections? What kind of a preference does one’s role as a party official require? What are the preferences of other member states?

Answering all these questions is cognitively demanding and time consuming. Importantly, mps do not have complete information to form fully rational and analytical assessments. They face a complex information environment and are confronted with a multitude of hard questions. To cope with this complexity, I argue that mps rely on their foreign policy beliefs as heuristics to form opinions on the desirability European integration.

Cognitive heuristics are short-cuts or rules of thumb individuals use to make decisions and form preferences when they face complex and incomplete information environments.43 Heuristics are quick and easy problem-solving and decision-making strategies that enable individuals to manage uncertainty and “keep information processing demands of the task within bounds.”44

Human beings are cognitive misers.45 There are many limitations on our ability to systematically process information and deal with the complexity of the world around us. Often employed unconsciously, cognitive heuristics allow us to function efficiently without being paralyzed by information overload and by excessive cognitive deliberation. The role heuristics play in decision-making and preference formation is well established in the psychology46 and political science literatures.47

Drawing from these insights, I argue that mps turn to their foreign policy beliefs to manage the complex information environment they face when ascertaining the attractiveness of furthering European integration. They take heuristic cues from the international politics paradigm in their mind to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of European integration for Germany and decide whether they personally support deepening integration. Because they embody the paradigm of world politics in individuals’ minds, foreign policy beliefs reflect broader ideological and partly normative predispositions toward international relations. They are prior to policy preferences, such as European integration, and tend to transcend specific situations. Therefore, they are well-suited to shape particular policy preferences and attitudes.

European integration has been the cornerstone of German foreign policy in the post World War II era. There is little debate on this. Of course, European integration has overtime also become an integral part of Germany’s domestic politics. Nonetheless, European integration continues shape the policies Germany pursues in world affairs. Thus, mps can conveniently draw inferences from their broader foreign policy beliefs to form fast reflexive attitudes. An innovative study found that European integration and the eu are among the highest salience foreign policy issues for members of the Bundestag.48 This finding suggests mps put European integration into the realm of foreign, not domestic policy, giving us more reason to think that mps will use their general foreign policy beliefs as evaluative standards to judge the desirability of European integration.

The hallmark of European integration is cooperation. European integration by definition rests on multilateral cooperation and diplomacy. It enshrines community interests and rule-based collaboration. Therefore, individuals’ general endorsement of these principles in international affairs, namely multilateralism, should lead to more favorable attitudes toward eu integration.

In contrast, isolationism should negatively affect support for integration. Since isolationism means focusing on Germany’s domestic affairs and avoiding commitments that will impede political independence and hurt national interest (e.g. financial bailouts), mps who value isolationism should be less inclined to favor European integration. Similarly, militant internationalism should reduce one’s support for integration. Not only is peaceful resolution of conflict a core value shared by members of the eu, but it has also been the Union’s main policy position in world affairs. Thus, mps who believe that a hawkish foreign policy is more beneficial for Germany than a dovish one should be less supportive of integration.

The following three hypotheses summarize this discussion.

Hypothesis 1:

Multilateralist mps will be more supportive of European integration.

Hypothesis 2:

Isolationist mps will be less supportive of European integration.

Hypothesis 3:

Militant internationalist mps will be less supportive of European integration.

Research Design

To examine the effect of fundamental foreign policy beliefs on attitudes toward European integration, I use original data from a survey of the members of the seventeenth German Bundestag fielded through mail questionnaires. Composed in German, the survey instrument was sent to all members of the parliament using their publicly available information. The response rate is about 11 percent, and the sample size is sixty-eight. I am conscious of the limitations of the data and thus recognize that this study is not the last word on the relationship between foreign policy beliefs and European politics. Nevertheless, the German mp survey provides a valuable point of departure for examining the relationship between parliamentarians’ foreign policy beliefs and their support for European integration. As Catherine E. De Vries and Christine Arnold note “the dearth of empirical studies” focused on elite preferences is to a large extent a problem of data availability.49 There is very limited information on how actual decision-makers, particularly national representatives, view the desirability of an ever-closer Union. Some studies rely on public opinion surveys or laboratory studies conducted with undergraduate students to reach conclusions about political elites. Because it is one of the very few surveys conducted with actual German policy elites,50 the German mp survey is uniquely positioned to make a contribution to our understanding of political decision-making in the German Parliament.

Second, the German mp survey provides direct information on actual politicians’ attitudes toward European integration. Some studies use expert surveys, such as polls of political scientists, to get at party positions on European integration.51 Other studies use the comparative party manifestos to approximate parliamentary elites’ attitudes. While useful for capturing the positions of political parties, these approaches are of little use for the purposes of this study because they do not include explicit information on individual mps’ attitudes. Because it provides direct evidence on the nexus between individual parliamentarians’ foreign policy beliefs and European integration, the German mp survey is particularly valuable.

Since surveying political elites such as legislators and executives is extremely challenging, studies based on elite surveys might need to rely on relatively smaller samples.52 While inappropriate for making broad claims about the population of interest, small samples are nevertheless suitable for identifying the causal relationship between two variables provided there is no obvious theoretical reason to believe that data generating process would be different for individuals who are not part of the sample.53 Because there is no well-founded theoretical reason to believe that the relationship between foreign policy beliefs and European integration would be different among those mps who are not part of the sample, the German mp survey can serve as a benchmark for understanding how foreign policy beliefs structure attitudes toward European integration.

Finally, the present survey is useful because the distribution of the respondents in the sample in terms of party affiliation roughly matches those of the seventeenth Bundestag, as shown in Table 1.

Table 1Distribution of Sampled Parliamentarians by Party Compared to the Composition of the Seventeenth Bundestag
cdu/csu: 28 percentcdu/csu: 239 seats, 38 percent
spd: 31 percentspd: 146 seats, 24 percent
fdp: 22 percentfdp: 93 seats, 15 percent
Alliance 90/The Greens: 7 percentAlliance 90/The Greens; 68 seats, 11 percent
Left Party: 7 percentLeft Party: 76 seats, 12 percent

Dependent Variable

The dependent variable is support for European integration. It is measured by two questions. The first focuses on mps’ beliefs about the desirability of strengthening integration. The variable deepening is measured by the question of “How desirable do you think is it to further deepen European integration?” Responses are coded on a five-point scale anchored by “a tremendous amount (coded 5)” and “none at all (coded 1).” This general question is useful because it simply taps the extent to which mps are willing to bring new policy areas under eu decision-making.

The second question captures mps’ views on delegating greater power to European institutions. The supranationalism variable is measured by “How much do you support allocating greater political power to supranational institutions of the European Union, such as the European Commission or the European Parliament?” with response options ranging from “a tremendous amount (coded 5)” and “none at all (coded 1).” This is a useful measure of support for European integration because supranational governance is traditionally considered to be an integral dimension of integration. A respondent’s overall support for integration, integration, is the standardized average of deepening and supranationalism.

Independent Variables

As previously explained, foreign policy beliefs have been studied extensively by decades of research. The questions I use to measure foreign policy beliefs are borrowed from previous studies. The validity and reliability of these questions are well-established.54 Responses for each of the foreign policy beliefs measures are coded on a four-point scale with “agree strongly (coded 4)” and “disagree strongly (coded 1)” marking the end points of the scale.

Three questions tap multilateralism. “When our country acts on a national security issue, it is critical that we do so together with our closest allies,” “Pursuing Germany’s interests often means we need to act quickly; going to the United Nations only slows things down” (reverse coded), and “German interests are usually best served by cooperating with our allies and with international institutions even if this means we cannot do all the things we want to do.” A parliamentarian’s final score on multilateralism is calculated by taking the standardized average of these three items (mean = 0.6; standard deviation = 0.3), which form a highly reliable measurement scale (alpha = 0.9).

To measure militant internationalism, I use three questions again borrowing from the existing research. “Using military force to solve problems usually makes matters worse” (reverse coded), “Military strength and the will to use it is still the best guarantee for peace,” and “Under some conditions, war is necessary to obtain justice.” The final militant internationalism score of an actor reflects the standardized average of this or her responses these items (mean = 0.4; standard deviation = 0.3). Again, the scale proves to be highly reliable (alpha = 0.8).

I use two questions to measure isolationism, the third key dimension of foreign policy beliefs. “Germany should play a leading role in solving global problems around the world” (reverse coded) and “The German government should just try to take care of the well-being of Germans and not get involved with other nations.” The standardized average of these items, which form a highly reliable scale (alpha = 0.9), constitutes mps’ final scores on isolationism (mean = 0.5; standard deviation = 0.4).

Control Variables

To isolate the effect of foreign policy beliefs on support for integration, I control for parliamentarians’ political party affiliation, drawing from existing empirical studies discussed above. To measure party identity, I asked parliamentarians “Which political party do you belong?” Response options include Christian Democratic Union (cdu), Social Democratic Party (spd), Free Democratic Party (fdp), Green Party (Alliance 90/The Greens), and Left Party (the Left).

Scholars have showed that the economic benefits of integration and public support or integration affect elite attitudes. Since I only focus on German mps’ support for integration, these factors are constant in my theoretical model. All German politicians face the same general tenor of public preferences and economic gains from integration. Of course, mps from different parliamentary groups can have different views on integration depending on how much integration serves the interests of their target electorate. Controlling for political party affiliation takes into account these dynamics.

I also control for European identity and nationalism.55 It is conceivable that mps who strongly identify as European are more supportive of integration while those who identify as German rather than European hold less favorable attitudes toward European integration.

To measure European identity, I use three questions. The first, borrowed from the Eurobarometer survey, asks respondents to compare their sense of national and European identity. Measured on a five-point scale, response options include “only German” (coded 1), “more German than European (coded 2),” “equally as German as European (coded 3),” “more European than German (coded 4)” and “only European (coded 5)”. The second and third questions capture mps’ perceptions of interdependence with the European community. One asks “When someone says something bad about Europe, how strongly do you feel it is as if they said something bad about you?” The five-point response scale is anchored by “extremely strongly (coded 5)” and “not strongly at all (coded 1).” The other investigates how much does being European have to do with how mps feel about themselves. Response categories are anchored by “a tremendous amount (coded 5)” to “none at all (coded 1). To measure the strength of attachment to the German nation, I use a dummy variable. nationalism is coded “1” if a participant indicates feeling tremendously or very much hurt on a personal level when someone says something bad about Germans, “0” if the participant indicates feeling only somewhat hurt or not hurt at all. Finally, the demographic controls include respondents’ age in years (age), and gender (female).


The results section proceeds in two main parts. First, I present the variation in the dependent variable integration in the sample and across political parties, simply showing that some mps are more supportive of European integration than others. Second, I present the findings from four regression models. I demonstrate that multilateralism is positively associated with support for integration while isolationism and militant internationalism are negatively associated.

When we look at the global index of integration, we see that the overall support for integration is relatively strong (mean = 3.2; standard deviation = 1.03) even though mps in the sample indicate more support for deepening policy cooperation (mean = 3.5; standard deviation = 1.07) than for transferring greater power to supranational institutions (mean = 3.0; srandard deviation = 1.3).

Table 2 displays the distribution of support for supranationalism in the full sample and across political parties. As can be seen in the upper part of the table, slightly over 16 percent of mps express tremendous support for delegating greater power to supranational eu institutions, about 21 percent express strong and 23 percent express moderate support. Moreover, 22 percent of the mps do not at all support transferring more power to supranational bodies and about 18 percent express very limited support. Among those who are tremendously in favor of supranationalism, 40 percent belong to the Green Party, about 27 percent to the fdp, and 24 percent to the spd. Christian Democrats are less supportive of supranational delegation than Liberals, Social Democrats, and the Greens. While about 26 percent somewhat or strongly support supranationalism, the majority is skeptical. Members of the Left Party are least supportive supranational transfer. Over 62 percent do not support delegating more power to eu institutions. In general, average support for supranational delegation is lowest in the Left Party (mean = 1.6; standard deviation = 1.0), highest among Greens (mean = 3.8; standard deviation = 1.3), relatively strong among Social Democrats (mean = 3.57; standard deviation = 1.1) and Liberals (mean = 3.53; standard deviation = 1.3), and somewhat weaker in the cdu (mean = 2; standard deviation = 1.0).

As can be seen in the lower part of Table 2, mps also vary in their views on the desirability of further deepening European integration. About 18 percent think that further deepening European integration is tremendously desirable, whereas 62 percent believe that deepening is very desirable or desirable. A very small minority, about 3 percent, does not support deepening integration, while about 18 percent express only weak support. Twenty-six percent of Christian Democrats, 19 percent of Social Democrats, and 20 percent of Liberals indicate that furthering European integration is tremendously desirable. Among those who thought that additional integration is

Table 2Parliamentarians’ Support for European integration (in percent)
Full SampleCDUSPDFDPGreensLeft Party
Desirability of allocating greater power to supranational EU institutions
Support a tremendous amount16.18023.8126.6740.000
Support a lot20.5910.5333.3326.0020.000
Support somewhat23.5315.7923.8134.0021.0025.00
Support not too much17.6538.6814.29019.0012.50
Don’t support at all22.0635.004.7613.33062.60
Desirability of further deepening integration
Tremendously desirable17.6526.3219.0520.0000
Very desirable38.2447.3747.6233.3340.000
Not so desirable17.6510.5314.2926.67037.40
Not desirable at all2.94000026.00
not so desirable, about 11 belong to the cdu, 14 percent to the spd, 27 percent to the fdp, and over 37 percent to the Left Party

Overall, average support for deepening integration is highest among Christian Democrats (mean = 3.8; standard deviation = 1.0) and still considerably strong among Social Democrats (mean = 3.7; standard deviation = 1.0). As was the case for supranationalism, mps from the Left Party indicate the lowest support for deepening (mean = 2.1; standard deviation = 0.8). In the fdp (mean = 3.4; standard deviation = 1.1) and the Green Party (mean = 3.4; standard deviation = 0.5), average support for deepening is about the same.

These findings unambiguously show two trends in the data. First, there is considerable variation in support for European integration among mps. Second, party discipline does not dictate attitudes toward integration. Parliamentarians within the same political party differ in their support for both deepening and supranationalism. What explains these differences across individual parliamentarians? If my argument is correct, mps’ foreign policy beliefs should predict their support for integration. Table 3 reports the results from four linear models predicting mps’ support for European integration, using the global integration index. The results support my hypotheses.

Since the effect of left-right party orientation on structuring attitudes toward European integration has long been established in the literature, I start with a baseline model that only includes the variables measuring parliamentarians’ party affiliation and then I add the variables measuring foreign policy beliefs. This strategy allows me to compare the relative importance of party affiliation and foreign policy beliefs. Results from Models 1 and 2 are presented in the left two columns of Table 3. Consistent with the findings of previous studies, I find that political party affiliation has a statistically significant and substantively important effect on support for European integration. mps from the cdu, spd, fdp, and the Green Party are more supportive of integration than those from the Left Party. The party variables jointly explain about 30 percent of the variance on support for European integration.

Model 2 adds the variables for the foreign policy beliefs of multilateralism, isolationism, and militant internationalism to the analysis. Supporting my hypotheses, foreign policy beliefs have substantively large and statistically significant effects on support for integration. As predicted, multilateralism has a considerably large positive effect on support for European integration. The more emphasis parliamentarians place on rule-based international cooperation and on welfare of the broader international community of states, the more they support European integration. To put it in another way, multilateralist mps are more inclined to have pro-integration attitudes.

In contrast, isolationism is negatively associated with support for integration, as expected. The belief that Germany should focus first and foremost on its domestic affairs and reduce its involvement in supranational institutions that impede its sovereign autonomy substantially reduces support for European integration.

Similarly, militant internationalism is negatively related to integration. mps who believe that Germany’s interests are well served by an assertive and if necessary hawkish foreign policy oppose European integration. While the substantive importance of militant internationalism is comparable to that of left-right party affiliation, the substantive effects of multilateralism and isolation appear to be greater than that of party ideology. For example, for a unit increase in multilateralism there is a 1.36 point increase in support for European integration. The substantive effect of multilateralism is about 0.76 points greater than that of party affiliation. Similarly, as isolationism rises by one unit, there is a 1.13 point decline in support for integration. The substantive effect of isolationism is about 0.53 points larger than that of party affiliation. In addition, the inclusion of foreign policy beliefs into the analysis greatly increase our explanatory ability, from 30 to 77 percent. Multilateralism, isolationism, and hawkishness together account for about 47 percent of the variance on support for European integration. A likelihood ratio test comparing Model 1 and 2 further shows that the addition of the foreign policy beliefs variables significantly improves model fit (χ2 = 76.45, p = 0.0000).56

These results clearly demonstrate that parliamentarians’ core beliefs about international politics significantly predict whether they have a positive or negative attitude toward European integration.

Table 3Foreign Policy Beliefs and Parliamentarians’ Support for European Integration
Model 1Model 2Model 3Model 4
Reported values are OLS regression coefficients with robust standard errors in parentheses. All models are statistically significant at p ≤0.001. Party variables are dummy variables with the Left Party as the reference group. The variables for multilateralism, isolationism, militant internationalism, and European identity have been standardized to range from 0 to 1.

p ≤ 0.001

p ≤ 0.05

p ≤ 0.1 N = 68

Model 3 controls for European identity and nationalism. European identity has a positive effect on support for integration. Parliamentarians whose social identity is anchored in the European community are more likely to be in favor of integration. Yet the substantive importance of European identity on support for integration is small. Nationalism does not seem to have any effect. The coefficient for nationalism is substantively small and fails to reach statistical significance. The addition of European identity and nationalism variables does little to improve the previous model’s explanatory power. Similarly, as Model 4 illustrates, mps’ gender and age do not seem to play any role in shaping their views on European integration. In the full model, multilateralism and isolationism still exert highly statistically significant and substantively large effects on support for European integration. The coefficient for militarism fails to reach statistical significance in the full model even though its effect is robust in the previous models.

In sum, these findings indicate that mps’ attitudes toward European integration are closely tied to the international relations paradigm in their minds. Multilateralism, internationalism, and antimilitarism are very strong predictors of representative attitudes European integration.


Both the European and German politics literatures have to date neglected the role foreign policy beliefs might play in shaping decision-makers’ attitudes toward European integration. This is an important omission given the plethora of evidence showing the impact of foreign policy beliefs on individuals’ postures on a wide array of policy issues in world politics. I have argued that foreign policy beliefs are crucial predictors of politicians’ support for integration because they serve as cognitive shortcuts by which actors evaluate the desirability of European integration. Testing my argument with an original survey of German mps, I have demonstrated that multilateralism, antimilitarism, and internationalism associate with greater support for European integration.

This article makes a number of important contributions. First, my findings provide new information on what kinds of parliamentary elites are more or less likely to advocate an ever-closer Union. European integration directly affects key social and economic actors in German politics, including interest groups, foundations, nonprofits, and other civil society enterprises. Since “permissive consensus” no longer captures the position of European publics, the German electorate is watchful of how European integration proceeds. The evidence presented in article is relevant to a myriad of domestic constituencies and voters.

Second, this study adds to the literature on elite attitudes toward European integration. Research on integration has focused on party politics, electoral pressure, and on the economic benefits of integration. These factors are undoubtedly important in explaining politicians’ political elites’ orientations toward European integration. As the results of this study show, however, the psychological international relations paradigm in politicians’ minds also plays a critical role in shaping their attitudes toward integration. By building a bridge between the foreign policy beliefs and European integration literatures, this research advances our understanding of why politicians subject to similar electoral or party pressures might exhibit different preferences over integration and suggests a new research agenda sensitive to the psychological beliefs of politicians.

Future studies can further examine the role of foreign policy beliefs with larger samples of parliamentarians and with government officials. In addition to surveys, in-depth interviews with policy makers will provide a useful line of inquiry. Scholars can also explore how foreign policy beliefs might interact with public preferences over European integration or with party politics. Another valuable direction of research will be exploring the influence of foreign policy beliefs on specific policies of the eu, such as the inclusion of Turkey and assistance for refugees. By providing a starting point for future works, this study opens up several avenues of new research.


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Scheuer and Schmitt (see note 9).


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Schoen (see note 12).


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Scheuer and Schmitt (see note 9).


Wonka and Rittberger (see note 7).


Weldon and Schmitt (see note 9).


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Rathbun (see note 13)


Martini, (see note 11), 419.




Ibid. Nincic and Ramos (see note 14); Rathbun (see note 11).


Chittick, Billingsley, and Travis (see note 14); Nincic and Ramos (see note 14), 122; Murray, Cowden, and Russett (see note 14), 458, Wittkopf (see note 14); Holsti and Rosenau, “The Domestic and Foreign Policy Beliefs” (see note 12); Holsti and Rosenau, “The Structure of Foreign Policy Attitudes” (see note 12); Shoon K. Murray, Anchors Against Change: American Opinion Leaders’ Beliefs after the Cold War (Ann Arbor, 1996).


Timothy Gravelle, Jason Reifler and Thomas J. Scotto, “The Structure of Foreign Policy Attitudes Redux: Cross-National Evidence; available at 7207667/The_Structure_of_Foreign_Policy_Attitudes_Redux_Cross-National_Evidence, accessed 25 January 2017. Even though the ci-mi framework had originally been developed to explain how the American mass public and policy elites structure their foreign policy beliefs, it has been applied to and tested in several European countries, including Germany, Italy, and the uk, to name a few over the years.


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Holsti and Rosenau, “The Structure of Foreign Policy Attitudes,” (see note 12); Chittick, Billingsley, and Travis (see note 14); Rathbun (see note 11).


Rathbun (see note 11), 388.


Nincic and Ramos (see note 14)


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Chittick, Billingsley, and Travis (see note 14); Herrmann, Tetlock, and Visser (see note 14).


For another application of heuristics to decision-making in the German Parliament, see Kropp (see note 7).


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De Vries and Arnold (see note 21), 203.


Jäger et al. (see note 48); Vössing (see note 23).


Ray (see note 5); Marks, Hooghe, Steenbergen, and Bakker (see note 1).


See, for example, Erik Damgaard, “The Function of Parliament in the Danish Political System: Results of Recent Research,” Legislative Studies Quarterly 5, no. 1 (1980): 101–121; Kim Yi Dionne, “The Role of Executive Time Horizons in State Response to aids in Africa,” Comparative Political Studies 44, no. 1 (2010): 55–77; Edurne Zoco, “Legislators’ Positions and Party System Competition in Central America A Comparative Analysis,” Party Politics 12, no. 2 (2006): 257–280.


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Wittkopf (see note 14); Holsti and Rosenau, “The Domestic and Foreign Policy Beliefs” (see note 12); Murray (see note 34); Chittick, Billingsley, and Travis (see note 14).


Nationalism and European identity items are borrowed from Richard K. Herrmann, Pierangelo Isernia, and Paolo Segatti, “Attachment to the Nation and International Relations: Dimensions of Identity and Their Relationship to War and Peace,” Political Psychology 30, no. 5 (2009): 721–754.


As a robustness check, I estimate an alterative model regressing foreign policy beliefs and public attitudes toward integration on mps’ support for European integration. I create the variable capturing public support for membership in the eu using data from the Eurobarometer 69.2 (March-May 2008) “National and European Identity, European Elections, European Values, and Climate Change.” The substantive results remain stable. Foreign policy beliefs exert a statistically significant and substantively large impact on mps’ support for European integration. Their weight is much larger than that of public support.

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Contributor Notes

A. Burcu Bayram (Ph.D. The Ohio State University, 2011) is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Arkansas and a research fellow at the Center for Global Cooperation Research at University of Duisburg-Essen. Her research integrates insights from political, social, and cognitive psychology into the study of international relations with a focus on international cooperation and global governance. Her current substantive areas of interest include compliance with European and international law, performance of international organizations, and global justice.